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We Were Eight Years in Power

FutureLearn US
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narrated (audio book) by Ta-Nehisi Coates

publisher: Penguin Random House (audiobook version, 2018)

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What I learned from this book

Coates offers to us a deep understanding of what it is like to be living as an American through the eyes of a much different viewpoint than many are accustomed to hearing – that of the African-American male .  It is an eye-opening discourse on the “flip” side of the American dream and its historical remembrances – as well as many other accounts of the events that took place in this country over the past 400+ years. It really offers a brand new angle for the American public in how we might finally want to address both the answers (and new questions going forward) concerning our legacy.

What I liked about this book

It is a sharply-witted, wake-up call containing more than a few ‘shots across the bow’ that many Americans will find stunning and difficult to digest.  That said, it also offers answers to so many questions that have been chalked up to much shallower explanations and inaccurate guesses as to some of our “social conditions.”  One shining example is: for those of us who thought America should be considered ‘post-racial’ after eight years of hosting one African-American president (Barack Obama) in the White House, Coates presents a convincing case of the polar-opposite viewpoint; drawing from his knowledge of James Baldwin and others. Coates suggests how we can choose to sincerely address our relationships with race (and each other) going forward – or not.  It is a testament to how distant issues can become when virtually ignored for so many centuries. He is calling us out when we label the simple passage of time erroneously as “progress.” He informs us that we indeed have a long way to go.

What I disliked about this book

There is very little for me to dislike about this book.  It is equal parts thoughtful, unique, expressive – and also uncomfortable.  Coates’ forthrightness is one good reason to explain why this book has been touted with such an array of awards and other literary recognition.  In my opinion, for many educational reasons, it is arguably “one for the ages!”

Whom would I recommend to read this book

I understand how important it is to a large swath of America to feel pride and nostalgia concerning America’s history. However, what Coates does is he tries to share with us that it is much more important is to check ourselves to ensure that the history we are told (and that ultimately we pass on to the next generation) is factually accurate and balanced.  Without it, he tells us we are essentially just living in a 330 million-person fantasy world of, well, ‘fake news …’

Your thoughts?

-A.N.

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Becoming Michelle Obama

FutureLearn US
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  • written by Michelle Obama (pub. 2018), 415 pp.

Becoming Michelle Obama

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What I learned from this book

Actually, I was shocked at how much of the book was apolitical.  I thought going in it would be much more concentrated on White House events, but, much to my relief, there were many more life experiences in the overall mix.  My expectations were for 80% politics and 20% personal.  In fact, it was more like 90% personal!  It is much less a book about living in America’s equivalent of a “Royal Palace,” and much more about one woman’s “journey in its totality.”  It is about identity, the struggle, self-doubts and the dream.  It is about perseverance.  It is also about letting go when you need to let go. But, most of all, it is about family, good friends and, most importantly, always standing firmly alongside the ones you love the most – warts and all!!

What I liked about this book

I’ve read hundreds (if not thousands) of books in my lifetime.  However, rarely have I run across an autobiography that is this honest and forthright.  Seriously, one would think that autobiographies are meant to be the most candid, but, for the most part, most fall dreadfully short of this goal.  I know it sounds cliché, but Michelle Obama really knows how to “put the reader in her shoes.” She understands how to make the reader feel the way she felt in a specific moment, to hurt in her personal moments of real pain, and to feel joy when she was uplifted in one of her finer moments.  She is a real person, a “one-of-a-kind” – and that is a rare find!  (And I’m a poet and didn’t know it!)

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